These Iroquois moccasins were made for a child in the mid-19th century. Before beads were available in North America, the Kanien’kehá:ka decorated their moccasins with porcupine quills dipped in vegetable dyes. When beads appeared with the arrival of Europeans in the 16th century, it did not take the Iroquois long to incorporate them into their spiritual and decorative traditions.
These Iroquois moccasins were made for a child in the mid-19th century. Before beads were available in North America, the Kanien’kehá:ka decorated their moccasins with porcupine quills dipped in vegetable dyes. When beads appeared with the arrival of Europeans in the 16th century, it did not take the Iroquois long to incorporate them into their spiritual and decorative traditions.

© 1997, Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

Moccasins

Iroquois Style Mid-19th century

unknown
Gift of Mrs. Anne Ross McCord

© 1997, Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.


This model of a baby carrier with a doll was made for a little Iroquois girl at the end of the 19th century. The baby carrier cover and the doll’s clothing are decorated with glass beads. From a very early age, children are surrounded by magnificent beaded objects.
This model of a baby carrier with a doll was made for a little Iroquois girl at the end of the 19th century. The baby carrier cover and the doll’s clothing are decorated with glass beads. From a very early age, children are surrounded by magnificent beaded objects.

© 1997, Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

Baby Carrier

Toy Iroquois Type Late 19th century

unknown
David Ross McCord Collection

© 1997, Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.


This splendid baby carrier cover is almost certainly the work of an experienced artist who is very gifted in beading technique. The cover was probably made in Kahnawake around 1850. The motif of very brightly-coloured flowers and birds draws its inspiration from the elements of the Iroquois cosmology.
This splendid baby carrier cover is almost certainly the work of an experienced artist who is very gifted in beading technique. The cover was probably made in Kahnawake around 1850. The motif of very brightly-coloured flowers and birds draws its inspiration from the elements of the Iroquois cosmology.

© 1997, Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

Baby Carrier Cover

Kanien'kehá:ka (Mohawk)?

unknown
David Ross McCord Collection
c. 1850
Kahnawake, Quebec, CANADA
© 1997, Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.


From 1860, the Kanien’kehá:ka began to sell their beaded work to tourists that came to visit their community near Montreal. Other artists went as far as Niagara Falls or other tourist attractions to sell objects that became prized souvenirs. Beaded bags like this one were manufactured in large numbers by the Iroquois. The Euro-Canadians who bought these objects preserved them carefully as souvenirs of their trip.
From 1860, the Kanien’kehá:ka began to sell their beaded work to tourists that came to visit their community near Montreal. Other artists went as far as Niagara Falls or other tourist attractions to sell objects that became prized souvenirs. Beaded bags like this one were manufactured in large numbers by the Iroquois. The Euro-Canadians who bought these objects preserved them carefully as souvenirs of their trip.

© 1997, Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

Bag

Iroquois Type Early 20th century Northeastern Canada

unknown
Gift of J.J. MacFarlane

© 1997, Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.


Most of the beaded objects made and sold at the turn of the century were designed in response to non-Aboriginal needs. Wall pouches were among the most popular articles. This pouch was hung on the wall and used to hold a pocket watch.
Most of the beaded objects made and sold at the turn of the century were designed in response to non-Aboriginal needs. Wall pouches were among the most popular articles. This pouch was hung on the wall and used to hold a pocket watch.

© 1997, Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

Wall Pouch

Iroquois Type Early 20th century

unknown
Gift of Miss Sarah Ann Kerby

Brantford, Ontario, CANADA
© 1997, Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.


Pin cushions were another favourite tourist item at the turn of the century. Covered in extremely complicated relief floral motifs, pin cushions quickly became topics of conversation. The cushion was found to be useful for holding hat pins. To add to their souvenir value, artists often included the name of a place in the motif of the object. In this pin cushion dating from the late 19th century, the word "Montreal" appears in gold beads.
Pin cushions were another favourite tourist item at the turn of the century. Covered in extremely complicated relief floral motifs, pin cushions quickly became topics of conversation. The cushion was found to be useful for holding hat pins. To add to their souvenir value, artists often included the name of a place in the motif of the object. In this pin cushion dating from the late 19th century, the word "Montreal" appears in gold beads.

© 1997, Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

Pin Cushion

Kanien'kehá:ka (Mohawk) Late 19th century

unknown
Gift of Mr. Luc d'Iberville Moreau

Kahnawake, Quebec, CANADA
© 1997, Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.


The Iroquois pay a great deal of attention to making toys for their children. This traditional doll dating from the late 19th century has a corn husk face and body. She is wearing a beaded outfit that is an exact copy of the traditional Kanien’kehá:ka costume and would surely be the prized possession of a little Iroquois girl.
The Iroquois pay a great deal of attention to making toys for their children. This traditional doll dating from the late 19th century has a corn husk face and body. She is wearing a beaded outfit that is an exact copy of the traditional Kanien’kehá:ka costume and would surely be the prized possession of a little Iroquois girl.

© 1997, Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

Female Doll

Iroquois Type Late 19th century

unknown
Gift of Miss Sarah Ann Kerby

© 1997, Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.


This beaded headdress was worn by a Kanien’kehá:ka man or woman in 1860 in honour of the visit of the prince of Wales. The elegant motif was produced by using a relief beading technique which requires starting by sewing a paper pattern of the floral motif on the skin or fabric, then filling it in with large numbers of beads, using a loose stitch to create a bouclé or relief effect.

This beaded headdress was worn by a Kanien’kehá:ka man or woman in 1860 in honour of the visit of the prince of Wales. The elegant motif was produced by using a relief beading technique which requires starting by sewing a paper pattern of the floral motif on the skin or fabric, then filling it in with large numbers of beads, using a loose stitch to create a bouclé or relief effect.


© 1997, Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

Headdress

Kanien'kehá:ka (Mohawk)

unknown
David Ross McCord Collection
c. 1860
Kahnawake, Quebec, CANADA
© 1997, Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.


Learning Objectives

The learner will:

  • Using examples, describe the patterns, colours, and motifs utilized in traditional Iroquois beadwork
  • Explain the importance of beading to traditional Iroquois culture and reflect on the connection between art and function
  • Reflect on how contact with European settlers impacted Iroquois beadwork

Teachers' Centre Home Page | Find Learning Resources & Lesson Plans